“The cuts have had a devastating impact on the Foreign Office’s work on sexual and reproductive health, and has damaged the UK’s reputation as a credible and serious partner [in the aid sector],” said Ms Champion.
After the government cut its foreign aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020, multiple overseas programmes run and funded by Britain – from HIV clinics in Kenya to deforestation projects in Columbia – were scaled back or disbanded.
Specifically, the proportion of aid designated for sexual health and reproductive rights (SRHR) fell from £607 million to £297 million between 2019 and 2022.
The rapid reduction in spending led to existing project budgets being cut or cancelled with “little to no notice,” the International Development Committee said.
The UNFPA has been particularly affected, according to the report. The UN’s sexual health agency, which is the world’s largest provider of safe contraceptives for women in developing countries, was mainly funded by Britain before 2020.
But following the cuts, given with “less than a week’s notice,” access to contraceptives is expected to be limited for millions of women in countries including Afghanistan, Malawi, Nigeria, and Pakistan, Ms Champion said.
“The fact we are stepping away from our commitments emboldens other governments to do the same, and ultimately takes away the right for women and girls to have control over their own bodies,” she told The Telegraph.
Citing a report published last year by the Foreign Office, the Labour MP said Britain’s cuts will likely lead to the deaths of “thousands upon thousands” of women and girls in pregnancy or childbirth.
Ms Champion insisted it was “no good” the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron recently declared the UK a global aid superpower “when we are failing on funding commitments, failing to set or achieve meaningful targets on sexual and reproductive health and rights – failing women, girls and marginalised groups the world over.”
The committee called on the Government to make a new commitment to women and girls and reinstate funding and targets.
“Our shared global sustainable development goals are stalled or going into reverse: we will not progress until the rights of women, girls and marginalised groups are prioritised and funded,” Ms Champion added.
The report said nearly 300,000 women died as a result of pregnancy and childbirth globally in 2020, with the vast majority in poorer countries, including 70 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
The Foreign Office has been approached for comment.
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